The note below arrived in my e-mail tonight. It sheds more light on what many priests — and the people they serve — are living with these days. Dcn. G.
In response to this post on finances, I would like to share a few things. In my diocese – Midwest – we can be reimbursed for mileage, but it is more beneficial to claim mileage on our income tax forms. Stipends – they are becoming fewer and fewer given the rising cost of living. We are all experiencing it across the board.
Regarding expenses – five years ago, I bit the bullet and tithed. Once a month I write a check to the Sunday collection – calculations indicate 10% of my gross income goes directly to the church – on top of my three year pledge to our capital campaign, along with contributing 5K every year to my Roth IRA. About five months ago the priests in my diocese were told that the priests’ retirement fund took such a severe hit in 2008/2009, by the time I’m able to retire (which I joking say will be behind the altar running six parishes at the age of 85 – holy beseech thee O, Lord!) there may not be enough for the all of the priests. My parish uses the retired guys for penance services. Immediately after this news came out, I asked one of them if they have enough to retire/live on…his response was telling…”Yes, as long as I continue to help out every day filling in here and there, hearing confessions and covering for guys.”
Many of your bloggers are right – some priests get everything paid for – vacations – clothes etc. There is no norm for this sort of stuff…and honestly, when a kindness comes my way I keep it to myself because I don’t want to offend another priest. After all, there is already a ton of pressure on some of these men…let’s not pit one against one another.
My concern, financially, isn’t for me at the moment, but my parents. As I said, I’ll die behind the altar as the church kills us. (I have great joy in my priesthood; just keeping it real.) They’ve done everything right – each sibling Catholic education (12 years each times 3 kids), worked hard, stay at home mom, etc. Dad did his best – 77 years old – but lost his job not once, but twice. College educated – and now, because of investments, and the mishaps of losing his job, I’m very worried. And many of my friends (parishioners who are my age – I’m 45) and high school friends share similar stories about their parents. I suspect, several of your readers could relate too. Now, as a pastor of parish of 8,000 people/2400 households – I’m thinking how can I earn extra money to help them? What extra part-time job can I take on?
After reading through all of the answers, it isn’t about me being financial well-off; the church will take care of me. It is more about, at this point in my life, trying to make sure the people I love the most, my parents who fostered this vocation, can have some greater sense peace in their life.